What Exactly Is Cinco de Mayo and How Is It Celebrated?

Posted by Up with People on May 1, 2019

Cinco de Mayo traditions in Mexico

The cast of Up with People had so much to celebrate during Easter week in Mexico, but left for Europe just before another fun and exciting holiday, Cinco de Mayo!

Here’s a question for you: Do you know why people celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Many people mistaken this day for being Mexico’s Independence Day. The real Independence Day is celebrated on September 16 when the independence movement started in 1810. May 5 actually commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 which is 41 years after the country’s independence.

What is the Battle of Puebla?

Benito Juárez was elected president of Mexico in 1861 during a time of the country’s extreme financial crisis. The European governments provided Mexico with a way out through financial support. Eventually, Juárez had no choice but to default on his payments leading to the arrival of naval forces in Veracruz, Mexico from France, Britain, and Spain. Britain and Spain negotiated terms with Mexico and their forces retreated. However, France had something else in mind.

France was ruled by Napoleon III. The French sent 6,000 troops to Mexico to attack at Puebla de Los Ángeles. It’s now currently the fourth largest city in the country. Despite the fact that Mexico only had 2,000 troops and was incredibly outnumbered, the French finally retreated in the early evening after losing nearly 500 soldiers. The country was provided with a sense of encouragement due to the victory of the Mexican troops. It filled everyone with a huge sense of pride for their country.

How Is Cinco de Mayo Celebrated?

Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in Puebla de Los Ángeles. However, many people join in the festivities around the country. A huge parade of townspeople in the city dressed in French and Mexican soldier attire march throughout the city. There is also a large reenactment of the war. After the Mexican troops win, the city celebrates with music, dancing and vendors serving traditional Mexican food.

The city also hosts the Festival Internacional de Puebla every year on Cinco de Mayo. This festival brings together artists from all around the world along with traditional Mexican dancers and musicians.

In the United States, this day has become a significant celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. Large festivals are held in areas with large Mexican-American populations with parades, parties, music, and food.

Boy playing guitar in Mexico on Cinco de Mayo

Want to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Your City?

There are many ways you can participate this year on this festive holiday. Not sure how? We’ve got you covered.

  • Educate yourself on Mexican history and culture. It’s important to know what it is you are celebrating! Share this post with your friends and family so they can learn more about Cinco de Mayo.
  • Dress up and join in a local festival near you!
  • Go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. Better yet, learn to cook your own Mexican-style dishes at home to share.
  • Listen to traditional Mexican music. There are several different types, but just to name a few, you can look up Ranchera, Norteño, Grupero, and Mariachi.
  • Learn more about different organizations that focus on immigrant rights and justice such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens.
  • Toast with a drink such as paloma or mezcal instead of a margarita. These are drinks that are actually popular in Mexico as opposed to the typical drinks we might think of.
  • Take some time to learn a little bit of español! ¡Sí se puede!

The cast of Up with People may not have celebrated Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, but they certainly will be singing their Spanish-inspired music all the way to Europe!

“Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores
porque cantando se alegran
cielito lindo los corazones”

Cielito Lindo

Questions? Click Here To Contact Up with People.


Topics: Insider

Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.

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